Free Trip to Hawaii

Posted by on Mar 11, 2013

Getaway to Hawaii Certificate

Getaway to Hawaii Certificate



I am not naïve or stupid, and I’m an adult and know that you don’t get anything for free. But a year ago I started the process to win a free trip to Hawaii which turned out to not be free and was a completely frustrating process.

It all started a year ago at the local travel show. I submitted my name to win a “free” trip to Hawaii. I thought that my name was going to be put in a barrel, which would be turned a few times after which someone would pull a name from the barrel and announce the winner. Sounds like very low chance of my winning right? Well I was surprised to get a notification that I had won and all I needed to do was…


Yes, unbeknownst to me I had entered to win a three-hour sales pitch. The sales pitch in itself was very interesting because it wasn’t for a time share but for a travel agent license, but right now I’m going to focus on the trip and will write about the sales pitch later. Randy and I attended the sales pitch, refused to sign up for the $7000 wonderful opportunity and went home with our certificate for “Five exciting days and four relaxing evenings of hotel accommodations and round trip airfare for two to Hawaii!”


I read all the fine print on the back of the certificate and mailed it off, certified mail, with $50 each refundable deposit to “GI” on April 6, 2012. Almost exactly a month later I received a form welcoming me to my Getaway to Hawaii! We had to sign this form and return it with a copy of our driver’s licenses via certified mail. We did this and almost exactly a month later received another form from GI.

This form requested all kinds of information about where we live, what we did for a living, phone numbers and finally asking where we wanted to go, Honolulu or Maui. We also had to pick three dates on which to begin our travel. The dates had to be 30 days apart and mailed in at least 90 days in advance of our earliest departure date choice. They also had to have a departure date on a Monday or Tuesday, returning on Friday or Saturday. They could not be within a week of a major US holiday and if during high season we would be responsible for cost over what GI would cover. Abiding by these rules would there be any eligible weeks we could sign up for?


After researching when “high” season is in Hawaii and checking the calendar for holidays then counting 90 days out and 30 days apart I chose Maui and selected three dates and sent them off to GI. I made arrangements for coverage at work for those three dates and then we waited, and waited, and waited. I thought “What the hell, they just leave you hanging?” Finally I called the 800 number on the back of the form, waited on hold for something like two hours and finally talked to someone who only could tell me that my form had been received but wasn’t in processing and could I mail a copy to them. Ha! I’m too smart! I had scanned all the forms and asked for her email address so I could email a copy to her, which I did. Then I waited some more.

About a month later I called again and the same person said she would hand carry our forms to the processing department. This must have worked because about a month later I received a letter telling me that none of my dates were available! They were asking me to fill out another form and select three more dates. At this point, feeling very frustrated, I tweeted “Has anyone ever gotten their free trip from GI?” (copying the GI Twitter handle) and sent a similar PM in Facebook directly to them. This got response by the next morning!

I received a phone call from a representative explaining the process, and who extended our eligible time period (which was going to expire before we could take our trip at this point), and giving me a few pointers on selecting dates. Turns out they considered “high season” any holiday and as long as we picked dates at least a week before or after holidays they were eligible. So I filled out the form, selecting three more dates and waited to hear back. This was in August 2012. Keep in mind that the first date again had to be 90 days out meaning the first date we could choose would be in late November but had to be a week away from Thanksgiving so ended up being the first week of December.

In November I called again asking for status and was told that we wouldn’t be getting the first date we had chosen and that someone would call us to arrange our trip 30 days in advance or they would send another form to select three more dates if none of our previously chosen dates were available. Brother!


I called again in December and was told that our March date had been approved but was not in booking yet and an agent would call at least 30 days prior to departure. Hooray! An approved date!

In February 2013, almost exactly one year after I put my card in a box to “win” a free trip to Hawaii, an agent called to go over information on our trip. She asked for my email address (which was on all the forms) and emailed me the details of our trip. I noticed that they had shorted us a day but she was very quick to fix this after I emailed her a copy of the original certificate listing the length of the trip. By the next day I had e-tickets for round trip flights to Maui on United and a voucher for the hotel in my in-box! Hooray! On March 4th we’re going to Hawaii!


Well we’re home again. We had a good time. The flight was strange considering that we live so close to SFO (San Francisco International) a major United hub and they flew us from San Jose to LAX and then to Maui but I’m not going to complain. The hotel (Maui Beach Hotel) was an airport hotel and was nothing special. It was clean and right on the water of the harbor in Kahului. I had researched it online (love TripAdvisor) and had called and upgraded to a courtyard room as the room we were booked into was right next to a busy road. We also rented a car and booked a whale watching trip. The entire free trip ended up costing us about $790 (taxes, hotel upgrade, rental car and not counting food, whale watching and other incidentals). If you are patient and persistent you can go on one of these “free” promotional trips but the process is long and frustrating.

A full trip report with an image gallery will be posted soon, so stay tuned!